The New York Times reports:

Emboldened by faltering diplomacy and a Russian pledge to keep supplying weapons, Syria’s armed forces assaulted insurgent enclaves in the northern part of the country on Tuesday, invading the city of Idlib in an expanded campaign to crush the year-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

Actually, it’s not the “faltering diplomacy” but the absolute paralysis of the West that has encouraged Bashar al-Assad to step up his killing spree. The Post reported:

The brutal killings of dozens of women and children in the central Syrian city of Homs prompted the council representing Syria’s opposition to call Monday for “urgent” international military intervention to protect civilians and prevent civil war as diplomatic efforts to resolve the country’s escalating conflict faltered.

The Syrian National Council — a deeply divided umbrella group whose efforts to unite the opposition have failed in part because of differences over military intervention — issued the call after videos showing the mutilated corpses of at least 45 victims were posted overnight on the Internet.

Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies e-mailed me, “Didn’t we intervene in Libya to prevent massacres — just like the one reported in Homs?” Yes, but President Obama is now in an election year and is reluctant even to use minimal, belated force while he is in “end the wars” mode. Alas, Assad isn’t going to end his killing spree anytime soon.

The destruction of Homs and the slaughter of civilians is reminiscent of the massacre at the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, another instance in which the “international community” left innocents to their own devices. After the fact, the United Nations’ own report in 1999 found inexcusable dereliction by the U.N. and Dutch “peacekeepers.” The BBC reported:

An estimated 7,000 men and boys were slaughtered in the so-called UN “safe area’’ after the Bosnian Muslim town was overrun by Serbs.

In his report, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said “safe areas’’ should never be established again without credible means of defence.

And he said UN peacekeepers should never be deployed again where there is no ceasefire or peace agreement.

His 155-page report said the UN Security Council should have approved “more decisive and forceful action to prevent the unfolding horror.”

“Not since the horrors of World War II had Europe witnessed massacres on this scale,” Mr Annan added. “The tragedy of Srebrenica will haunt our history forever.” . . .

Mr Annan said the UN was wrong to declare it would only use Nato air power against the Serbs as a last resort.

“The cardinal lesson of Srebrenica is that a deliberate and systematic attempt to terrorise, expel or murder an entire people must be met decisively with all necessary means, and with the political will to carry the policy through to its logical conclusion,” he added.

This would be the same Kofi Annan who was chit-chatting with Assad.

All the United States can offer is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s scolding of China and Russia, which have vetoed efforts to end the bloodshed. In The Hague, representatives of these nations were unmoved by Clinton’s words:

During angry exchanges, Mrs Clinton said: “We reject any equivalence between premeditated murders by a government’s military machine and the actions of civilians under siege driven to self-defence.” She added that the Security Council should not “stand silent when governments massacre their own people, threatening regional peace and security in the process.”

And Mrs Clinton also described President Assad as “cynical” for hosting Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary General, on a peacekeeping mission while launching a fresh assault on the town of Iblib.

[Russian foreign minister] Mr Lavrov said, however: “Hasty demands for regime change [are] risky recipes of geopolitical engineering which can only result in further conflict.

“At this stage we should not talk about who was the first to start, but rather discuss realistic and feasible approaches which would allow [us] to achieve the ceasefire as a priority.”

China’s UN ambassador Li Baodong added: “China is against interference in internal affairs in the name of humanitarianism. No external parties should engage in military intervention in Syria and push for regime change.” . . .

After a private meeting between Secretary Clinton and Mr Lavrov, she said: “I pointed out that lack of unity will be dangerous, bloody conflict that will have regional implications.” But Mr Lavrov said that it was “dishonest” to blame Russia for the bloodshed and that he would not accept “take or leave it” tactics.

“Ultimatums will not work,” he added.

He’s right about that. Clinton might have pointed out that Annan was cynical for visiting with Assad and now risks two genocidal massacres on his record. But as the massacre unfolds, the U.S. president will be held, if not immediately than by history, to be uniquely responsible. Having the capacity to end the violence and refusing to do so, Obama will be asked if he did not learn the “cardinal lesson” of Srebrenica.

Let’s be candid: Leading from behind is not leading at all when the international community is checkmated by despotic regimes that have no interest in deposing Syria. When th United States fails to halt despot, our foes become more aggressive, and free people learn not to depend on the United States. But mostly, thousands an thousands of people die.